This week the UFC, fighters, fight fans and media have heard and seen it all with UFC Light Heavyweight Champ Jon Jones’ refusal to fight Chael Sonnen causing UFC 151′s entire fight card to be cancelled for the first time under the Zuffa banner. Jones and coach Greg Jackson have been blasted on Twitter and Facebook, on national television, and by UFC President Dana White and everyone in between. Today on MMA Fight Corner, UFC lightweight Evan Dunham and former Ultimate Fighter competitor James McSweeney gave their take on the champ’s decision and the fallout of his decision.
For Evan Dunham the answer was simple as to what Jones should have done. “I definitely think he should have taken it. It’s one of those situations where they say ‘you want to fight this guy’ and you can’t say no. I don’t think there’s any question about whether he should have taken it or not.”
James McSweeney, who trained with Jon Jones at Jackson’s camp earlier in his career, he had a bit more insight on the subject. “If you’ve had a training camp…it’s two weeks or so before the fight, 10 days before the fight, you’re already at the peak of training camp. So therefore, you’re the champion of the world, you fight anybody, otherwise you don’t deserve the belt,” McSweeney said. “If he lost, then he didn’t deserve the belt in the first place – that’s how it boils down to – the end of the line. You are the world champion. You should fight anybody on any given day as long as you have time to prepare. Just because he was fighting a wrestler doesn’t mean his whole training camp was about wrestling. He was never gonna out wrestle Dan Henderson, he was going to outstrike Dan Henderson, like he does to a lot of his opponents. That would have been the same point that he would have had with Chael Sonnen. And I just believe he should have the confidence. And it’s a big thing for Greg Jackson not to have the confidence in his fighter not to believe that he would have won that fight.”
Fighters in the UFC have historically stepped up when it mattered. UFC President Dana White has prided himself on building an organization with enough depth to avoid ever having to cancel a fight, much less an entire fight card. In eleven years it hadn’t happened because no fighter had ever flat out refused to fight.
McSweeney praised UFC middleweight contender Michael Bisping for stepping up on only eight days notice to fight Chael Sonnen in what was a title eliminator for the UFC middleweight title. Though Bisping lost, James credited him for putting everything he had in the Octagon. “Michael Bisping took on Chael on 8 days notice with no training and made a real fight. And I’m not the biggest fan of Bisping to be honest, but still he steps up and takes the plate. And that’s what you have to do in this industry. And also, this is the company you work for, you’ve got to understand this is your boss. And if you’re boss asks you to go to work, you go to work. That’s it. “I don’t know any other company in the world where you can go to, ‘Hey do you wanna work in eight days? No, I don’t want to do that. No? Ok, you’re fired.’”
James also saw the flip side of the situation and tried to rationalize why Greg Jackson advised the champ to avoid taking the fight. In the end, McSweeney said the decision they made would only further tarnish Jones’ image. “I understand what Greg’s saying because Chael Sonnen’s a very,very tough guy,he’s a tough opponent,” McSweeney said. “Business wise, there’s a lot of damage reparation to be done for Jones. He’s done a few things outside of the cage that he has to repair. Damage with public relation damage he has to do, this has just made it a 1000 times worse. Have you seen the hate mail that’s been coming to Jackson’s Camp and Jones on Twitter?”
When Greg Jackson first brought Jon Jones into his camp. Rashad Evans told Greg Jackson prior to Jones’ arrival that he thought it’d be bad idea, but Jackson brought in Jones and made him his star pupil anyway. Evans knew Jones would be competition and that he would eventually have to fight him. From his own experience training with Jackson-Winklejohn MMA, McSweeney confirmed with MMA Fight Corner that Evans’ take on Jones’ arrival to the camp has been accurate.
“I was there when Jon Jones first came to the Jacksons Camp, I know how it all went about and I have to say, I have to back Rashad up the whole way. Exactly how Rashad played out the incident, is what happened, and he always called him a fake. Now, they had a very tough fight. Jones is an athlete inside the cage, he’s undeniable, a superior athelte, he’s up and coming, and he is a phenomenon in the cage, but outside the cage there’s definitely some management that needs to be done with him.”
McSweeney even divulged that prior to Jones fighting Matt Hamill in the Ultimate Fighter Finale Heavyweights Finale, the team had gone out and Jones drank to the point of being “paralytic drunk” and had to be carried out of the bar. Despite whatever self destructive actions Jones had done the night before, he still was able to dominate Hamill in the cage until he was disqualified for 12-6 elbows. The fight was Jones’ only loss to this day.
“Well, it never affected his performance, I’ll give him that at least. I just think as an athlete if you’re trying to be a professional and you’re young, it’s not just about you’re performance, it’s more about the picture that you paint of yourself as an athlete. There’s people looking up to you. And a lot of things he’s doing as of late, is not painting a good picture of a champion,” McSweeney said. “There’s nothing worse than being preached to by someone who you know is a hypocrite.”
As for Lyoto Machida backing out of a rematch for the title with Jones at UFC 152 in Toronto that was supposed to take place on September 22nd, Dunham said Machida’s decision made sense. “He hasn’t been training for a fight like Jones has. I think a big thing that a lot of people are overlooking in this situation, their reading into a bunch of other stuff, but what it all breaks down to me is kind of the code of the fighter is to go out and fight whoever you need to and not worry about their game plan. That’s what a lot of fighters say going into a fight. ‘I’m not worried about what he’s gonna do, I’m gonna worry about what I gotta do’ and that’s exactly what Jones is not doing here. If he would have taken this fight and gone out and fought, that’s exactly what he would have been doing – not worry about Chael, do his own thing, fight his fight and probably come out a winner.”
On September 22nd, Vitor Belfort will come up to 205lbs and fight Jones for the light heavyweight title, Dunham believes he’s got a shot at taking home the upset over Jones. “The biggest thing Vitor has going for him is he’s so explosive. He can come inside so quick, if he can stay on that outside, “We’ve all seen how exploisive Vitor can be with those one or two punches right down the pipe and he might be able to catch him.”